CHAPTER.02 – RETURN FROM AXIS (1)

axis_return01

【第2話:アクシズからの帰還①】
CHAPTER.02: RETURN FROM AXIS ①

September U.C.0084.

Centered on the sector of space of the Repubic of Zeon at Side 3, precautions for remnant Zeon forces had been imposed in all sectors of the Earth Sphere. The large-scale terrorist attack carried out by the Delaz Fleet the previous year had become fuel for the revival of remnant Zeon forces still lingering in Earth space. In fact, part of these remnant Zeon forces had caused other large-scale attacks such as the “Silver Lance Incident” in the Republic of Zeon, so it was in no condition to enjoy any post-war sense of security.

In the midst of this, Earth Federation Forces had received information from part of their intelligence network that suspicious movements had been detected and that they were believed to be Zeon remnant forces hiding out on the resource mining satellite Axis in the asteroid belt.

These suspicious movements had been detected in a blurry video taken by an ultra long range surveillance satellite installed to watch Axis by the Earth Federation Forces. Analysis of the video had indicated that it was an image of a gathering of several ships—in other words, a fleet. A comparison of the camera’s angle with the analysis data had prompted the conclusion that the fleet’s flagship was highly likely to be a Zanzibar-class mobile cruiser of the type possessed by Zeon remnant forces. Ultimately, given the course of the fleet extrapolated from its direction of movement, it was impossible to conclude anything else but that it was headed for Earth space.

The Earth Federation Forces were still on the alert against the Axis fleet, which were said to have been connected with the Delaz conflict. Although they couldn’t begin to understand these movements, they couldn’t help but consider the possibility that this fleet was carrying something that would allow remnant Zeon forces to once again choose the a path of large-scale terror. Still, the Earth Federation government, as yet apprehensive of reigniting the One Year War, issued the same order as it had during the Delaz conflict: to keep close watch on suspicious fleets and to expel them from the Earth Sphere.

On top of that, the predicted destination of the fleet departing from Axis was the Republic of Zeon (Side 3), which had attempted to maintain its independence from the Earth Federation but had instead sunk to the level of being handled as a self-governing region. Earth Federation Space Forces had, acting on the information that sympathizers were still rampant around the borders of the Republic of Zeon, dispatched fleets and strengthened its alerts.

The Titans Alexandria-class heavy cruiser Al Giza was stationed in the lunar city of Granada, and its attached 7th Team, under the command of Lieutenant Elias, received a report from a Federation patrol unit guarding the nearby sector. The report raised tension throughout the unit.

The patrol unit, deployed as precautions were expanded, had detected a suspicious squad of mobile suits moving along the lunar surface towards Granada. Three suits were sighted. A long range camera-equipped EWAC GM with the patrol unit consulted the sightings survey data, but couldn’t confirm that the approaching units matched the former Principality of Zeon machines now registered to the Earth Federation Forces. As a result, the probability was greater that the moving mobile suits were remnant forces sent from Axis, and the alert went out to the Titans, who were expanding their efforts to hunt down Zeon remnants.

The movements of this mobile suit team could be interpreted as an attempt to evade the cordon at L2, the Langrange point that was closest of the five to the moon, and make contact with someone by moving across the surface of the moon.

Ordinarily, the top brass of the Titans would have ignored the request from the weak Earth Federation government and issued an order to the Al Giza’s forces, stationed in a nearby area, to seize or destroy the unidentified machines. But the Al Giza’s full forces were not prepared to sortie, so it was decided that the 7th Team, which was on ready alert to scramble, would proceed until the rest of the forces were prepared to attack.

The 7th Team, in order to scramble rapidly and battle at long-range across the vast lunar surface, was made up with an unusual composition of units. Including the machine that Lieutenant Elias piloted as commander, there were two GM Quels, which were the mainstay of Titans forces. Handling long distance observation and firing were GM Sniper IIs, equipped with a new type of high-output long-range beam rifle as backup. Lastly, a “special machine” completed the formation.

This special machine was the mobile suit called Pale Rider DII. The Titans, in their search for a new mainstay machine to replace the GM Quel, had advanced its plan to modernize and deploy some of the high-powered suits studied for mass production in the past and gathered a variety of authentic combat data. The Pale Rider DII was a modernized version of the Pale Rider Dullahan, manufactured as a prototype candidate for mass production for Earth Federation Forces. Although its basic design was the product of the immediate post-war period, it was equipped with avionics equivalent to those of a cutting-edge suit and the surroundings of its thrusters had been reinforced, so its abilities far surpassed the GM Quel. The Augusta Base engineering team that had carried out the modernization had put a seal of approval on its combat deployment.

The Titans 7th Team deployed using a transport ship from Granada’s military spaceport, where their mothership the Al Giza was moored. The GM Sniper II landed in a position where it could make use of its range to halt the advance of the enemy units from behind at an intermediate point. Then, the GM Quels and the Pale Rider DII would rush on ahead to confront the unknown mobile suits.

Lieutenant Elias did not have the option of attacking mobile suits out of nowhere if they didn’t attack first, even if they were of unknown affiliation; his goal was to halt their advance and secure them. The members of his team let out chuckles when they heard him suggest this lenient operational plan. The GM Sniper II, which could open fire against any oncoming suit with its large, long-range beam rifle, would settle down into a crater. Then, the GM Quels would take on the task of approaching the enemy units while the highly maneuverable Pale Rider DII formed up behind them as backup.

Constantly on the lookout for a sudden assault, the two GM Quels approached the enemy units. As they approached to a distance close enough that their presence could be confirmed with an ordinary camera, they sent an optical signal to the enemy to halt their advance. And although the unknown suits should have been able to receive the signal, they did not cease their movements.

“They don’t appear to be stopping!”

The situation seemed unavoidable. Tension spread among the members of the 7th Team, faced with the decision to initiate combat.

“If they don’t show any intentions of stopping, we’ll be forced to attack.”

The GM Quels continued to transmit their optical signal as they closed the distance with the unknown units. Then, as they came close enough to visually confirm each other’s presence, the Titans pilot felt a chill.

Among the three unknown units, he could tell by the silhouette that two of the suits were Galbaldy types. The Galbaldy type had been developed by the former Principality of Zeon for the Pezun Project towards the end of the One Year War, a phantom of a mobile suit that had been intended as the successor to the then-current Gelgoog type. Since the Galbaldy possessed abilities superior to the Gelgoog, the Earth Federation Forces had confiscated them, redeveloped them into the Galbaldy β, and redeployed them into combat. So it was no surprise that remnant Zeon forces still possessed what were now called the Galbaldy α. But the Galbaldy units were beside the point; what concerned the pilot was the unit in the center.

This mobile suit, a Dom type in a red color scheme, appeared to be a commanding officer’s suit. No Federation officer who saw that shape could avoid thinking of the “Red Comet Char.”